Bit by bit, the largest environmental verdict in history—a $19 billion judgment pending against Chevron for polluting the rainforest in Ecuador—is disintegrating. The collapse threatens to cause collateral damage to a major Washington law firm and a Colorado scientific consultancy that counts state and federal agencies among its clients.
On April 17, the hedge fund Burford Capital, which had invested millions of dollars to bankroll the long-running litigation on behalf of poor farmers and indigenous villagers, leveled accusations of fraud against the lead plaintiffs’ lawyer, Steven Donziger, and his allies at the large Washington-based law firm Patton Boggs. Burford renounced any potential profit from the case because of what its chief executive, Christopher Bogart, described in a sworn declaration as “mounting evidence of fraud and misconduct” by Donziger and Patton Boggs. Bogart said his $300 million litigation-finance outfit had been misled about dubious lobbying of Ecuadorean judges and the ghostwriting of expert findings.